Well, I was selling a home in Bickford Park, or trying to, while not being distracted by the mayhem going on in Toronto
With Toronto set to square off against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre on Tuesday night in a one-game playoff, many of us are thinking back to 2015, the Texas series, the bat-flip, and perhaps the best moment in Toronto sports in two decades.
We all have those “where were you when” stories, so sit back and let me tell you mine…
Where were you when…
Those stories are often more negative than positive, are they not?
Where were you when JFK got shot?
Where were you when the first airplane hit?
So here’s a shift in the other direction.
I coached baseball for seven years, and I often forgot that when I asked my kids, “Where were you when Joe Carter hit ‘the’ homerun,” I was going to get an answer involving them either crapping their diapers, or being a sparkle in their father’s eye.
I couldn’t believe it.
The greatest moment in Toronto sports in the past half-century, and these kids either weren’t born, or were infants?
It’s crazy to think.
Having said that, when I was growing up, my uncles would talk about “1972” and they couldn’t fathom the idea that I wasn’t born and alive to see Paul Henderson score the goal that beat the Russians, when they were being rushed into their school gymnasiums while teachers rolled out TV’s with rabbit ears.
Jose Bautista’s bat-flip on October 14th, 2015, will be this generation’s “where were you” moment.
Now, I’m not a big fan of live sports.
I’m very inflexible, set in my ways, and a bit of a yuppie, so the idea of spending three hours at a hockey or baseball game, plus travel time, when I can get a better product on TV (closer to the action, higher quality, pause/rewind/replay) not to mention being on my own couch.
So the idea of attending Game Five of the 2015 American League Divisional Series never entered my mind.
But I did plan on watching what I could of it on TV.
I had an offer to present that night, and I knew it would fall right in the middle of the game.
But like every other aspect of my life, “business comes first.”
My client was a single-mom, looking to buy a house for her son and herself, in the Bickford Park area.
Ironically, her son was a huge baseball fan, and his favourite player was Jose Bautista.
Could this story get any better?
I signed the offer with my client in the early afternoon, and we knew there were three offers, so we filled in our price, and waited for 7pm.
The timing was perfect – the game started at 4pm, offers were at 7pm, and I had no afternoon appointments. So I found myself at home, watching the Jays game on TV.
I’m sure you don’t need this refresher, but the Blue Jays had lost the first two games of the series, both at home, and then miraculously won BOTH games in Texas to tie the best-of-five series at two games apiece.
The final game of the series would be played at Rogers Centre, where the Jays had a distinct home-field advantage. Only on this night, we would see a home field advantage that might have been the greatest in the history of the sport.
The game started terribly for the Blue Jays.
Delino Deshields Jr. (I can’t believe I’m old enough to say “I saw his father play”…) lead off the game with a double, moved over on a groundout, and scored on a sacrifice fly.
1-0 Texas after one inning.
Exactly the start we didn’t want.
In the third inning, Shin-Soo Choo homered for Texas, and it was 2-0 Texas.
I didn’t like the way the game “felt.” It was only the third inning, but the Jays had nothing going on offense, and Marcus Stroman wasn’t looking sharp.
Jose Bautista doubled in Ben Revere in the bottom of the third inning, to cut the lead to 2-1, and it stayed that way for another hour.
I was so nervous, I stood for most of the game.
I’m a big sports fan – I religiously follow golf, football, and baseball, and while I love the history of hockey (I conned my way into the Hockey Hall of Fame archives department feigning a school project in 1992 so I could read through old box scores of games from the 1920’s…), I don’t really follow it anymore.
When I was growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, I spent my school nights down at Skydome thirty nights a year. And when the Jays performed miserably in the mid-1990’s; when I was in high school, and tickets were $4 each, I went to a game every Saturday.
This was the first Jays’ playoff run in twenty-two years, and I was salivating at the idea of them heading to the ALCS, and then the World Series.
I watched the majority of the game standing up, and when Edwin Encarnacion hit a 6th inning homerun to tie the game at 2-2, I thought, “This is it. They’re gonna win.”
I had to leave right after that homerun to get to Bloor West to present my offer.
I turned on the Jays game on Fan 590 in the car, and I got weird sensations; flashbacks, almost, listening to the radio, like it was 1986.
I knew that the next run was going to win this game, and I listened to the call of every single pitch with desperation as I drove west on Richmond Street.
In the 7th inning, Texas had men on base, and I was driving through the alleyway south of Queen Street, west of Bathurst – you know that shortcut you take to avoid the traffic and the ‘no-turn’ sign on Queen?
Some bizarre play involving an errant throw back to the pitcher by Russell Martin had allowed a Texas base-runner to come home, but the radio announcers were utterly confused, and it seemed as though they were confident the run wouldn’t be allowed to count.
I felt blind, listening to this on the radio.
I hated not being able to see the play, and decide for myself if the run should count.
It took a few minutes to sort out, as I splashed through puddles driving in the alleyway.
I remember thinking, “They don’t want us to win. The fix is in,” and just like that, I heard the roar of an angry home crowd at Rogers Centre through the radio, and Jerry Howarth said, “And the run is going to score.”
I remember at that exact moment, hitting a speed bump in the alley way, and hearing Jerry Howarth tell me the bad news – when I knew the next run would win the game, I felt all the blood rush through my body, from my head to my toes, in that “top of the rollercoaster” feeling that is essentially a minor anxiety attack.
“It’s over,” I thought.
I knew they didn’t want us to win.
The American fans, the American media, Harold Reynolds – all of them.
I pulled up at the house my client was trying to buy, and I turned off the radio.
I sat in silence for ten minutes, switching gears, and getting focused.
I walked inside the house, greeted the agent, and the sellers.
I sat down at the table, and I felt a lump in my stomach – the game wasn’t out of my mind. Not even close.
It’s hard to turn off your emotions, even when you know you have to.
I can multi-task, and I’m good at what I do. I was able to accomplish what I needed to – sitting there in silence, letting the listing agent read through the offer, as though anything but the price matters, watching the face, hands, and knees of the sellers.
Yes, the knees. Thank God for the glass dining room table.
The woman’s knee was bouncing up and down like a ground ball to second base.
She was rubbing her pen like a hitter applying pine tar to a bat in the on-deck circle.
She was nervous, and while it could have been the entirety of selling one’s house, I figured it’s because we were the last offer to present, and we had the highest offer.
She was wearing her emotions on her sleeve on this night, not unlike every player out on the field at Rogers Centre.
We finished up, and I thanked them for the opportunity to present an offer, complimented them on their lovely home, and then walked out to my car.
I sat in the car for five minutes in silence, not really sure if I should be more worried about my offer, or the Jays.
I turned on the radio and started to drive, and the first thing I heard was Jerry Howarth say, “And that’ll load the bases.”
It’s way over.
I figured the Jays would implode after that faux-pas with Russell Martin’s errant throw that allowed the controversial Texas run to score.
But then I heard Jerry Howarth say “Goins.”
As in Ryan Goins.
As in it wasn’t Texas that had the bases loaded, but rather the Jays!
What the HELL did I miss?
The Jays had Dalton Pompey at third base, Kevin Pillar at second base, and Ryan Goins at first base.
My car wheels screeched on the wet pavement as I drove away from the house, headed up to Bloor Street to try to find a TV.
Ben Revere hit a ground ball to the first base side, and Dalton Pompey was thrown out at home.
It was still 3-2 Texas, as I pulled up on Bloor Street, didn’t think once about putting money in the meter, and ran over to the first bar I could find.
They were at capacity, and the doorman (probably the only time ever this bar was at capacity…) told me I could watch the game from outside.
Of all the pleasures in life we have today, and with all the advances in technology that gives us everything we want at our fingertips, I found it ironic that I was standing in the cold, on Bloor Street, with two homeless guys asking me for a smoke, watching a 42-inch TV from thirty feet away.
Josh Donaldson was up – the league MVP to-be, and he hit a ball off the bat that I thought was the end.
I know baseball. I coached for seven years, and I’ve watched my whole life.
I know what a “flare” looks like as soon as it hits the bat.
But amazingly, what should have been a double-play (the ball should have been caught, and Texas should have doubled-off a player off the base at either 2nd or 1st), was far from it, as the ball was allowed to land on the turf, and a run scored to tie the game at 3-3.
Little did I know, but the three baserunners from Toronto reached base on three Texas errors. It was the first time in 100 years that a team had committed three errors in the same inning of a playoff game.
A friend of mine was in Rogers Centre for the game, and he told me later on that without a doubt in his mind, the reason the Texas players committed three straight errors on three straight plays was simple: FEAR.
He said the Rogers Centre was a powder-keg about to go off. After the controversial Texas run was allowed to score, the fans started to litter the field, and throw beer – lots of it!
He said at one point he thought the place was going to riot, and that “There were only fifty cops in the whole building, and if it were to start, there would be no end to the melee.”
He said that what was happening in the stadium was not being captured on TV, and you could never really understand the vibe. It wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t funny, it was scary.
During the commercial break between Texas’ at bats and the Jays’, the police were on the field in full force, and he was shocked that the umpires allowed the game to continue in the bottom half.
That is when Texas committed three errors, on three plays.
And he is 100% convinced it was because they were scared sh!tless about what was going on, or could happen, in that stadium.
So here I was, on Bloor Street, waiting to hear about my offer, watching a 3-3 game, with the bases loaded, and Jose Bautista at-bat.
No need to milk this one, folks. You all know what happened next.
The term “no-doubter” is perfect to describe the look of that homerun, right off Jose’s bat.
The extension of his arms, the angle of his bat, the launch of the ball off his bat – it all screamed “homerun.”
But it was his reaction with first his eyes, then his bat-flip, that said “no-doubter.”
I jumped up and down, I high-fived four or five people that I didn’t know, and for a moment I felt the same emotions that I felt when Roberto Alomar took Dennis Eckersley deep against Oakland in 1992, or when Dave Winfield hit a double down the line against Atlanta a couple weeks later.
Then I realized, this was better.
This wasn’t the ALCS, and it wasn’t the World Series, but it was second only to Joe Carter in terms of clutch hits in Jays’ history.
I watched the first bench-clearing, then I got a text from the listing agent saying, “Come inside, we’d love to accept your offer.”
Did he think I was outside the house?
Did he have ANY idea what was going on?
I got back in my car, and headed over to the house, listening to the second bench clearing after a Texas player patted Troy Tulowitzki on the butt, and he didn’t like it.
I turned off the radio just as Jerry Howarth was saying, “This is getting out of hand,” and the silence as I walked up the steps of the house was deafening.
I went inside, and the sellers’ calm was shocking.
The agent’s gracious smile and slow handshake were freaky.
I just went from mach-speed to a dead-crawl in ten seconds.
I was on another level than these people, and it was odd.
I sat down at the table, as the listing agent spoke slowly, and the sellers sat motionless, and I couldn’t help myself:
“Do you guys have ANY idea what’s going on outside right now?”
They looked at each other, a bit confused, then a bit concerned.
“Oh, no, what’s going on?” asked the wife, as I realized maybe I spooked them, and they thought maybe a large tree branch crashed down over a power-line, or a car hit a lamp-post.
“The Jays,” I said. “They’re……they’re doing something…..special.”
I didn’t really have the words, but then again, how can you possibly explain what just happened in the previous five minutes, let alone the entire hour of that infamous seventh inning?
“Oh, is there a baseball game on tonight?” the wife asked.
“Yes, the Blue Jays are in the playoffs,” the listing agent said.
“It’s the finals, right? The last game of the series?” the husband asked?
My mind was like a techno rave on drugs, and their heads were somewhere between Chopin and that waterfall crap that you hear during a massage.
I tried to change the subject back to the offer at hand by saying something simple like, “They’re good – they’re scoring, it’s great,” and we moved on.
The agent made a photocopy of the accepted offer, as I used all my strength to not take out my iPhone and check the score. My client had just bought these people’s house; I owed them the respect of making necessary small-talk after the ink had dried.
I got a copy of the accepted offer, and we congratulated each other, shook hands, and went our separate ways.
I called my client, and the first thing she said, before I even told her about the offer, was, “Are you watching this Jays game? It’s crazy!”
Crazy. That’s one way to describe it.
Even more crazy was that she had just bought a house, to live in with her son, who had just told me hours earlier that his favourite Jay was Jose Bautista, who tonight gave us one of the top-5 moments in Toronto sports history.
I drove home, listening to Jerry Howarth call every pitch Roberto Osuna threw – complete with the speed, since he was dialed in that night and throwing 98 MPH fastballs, mixing in his brutal slider, and the occasional change-up that made batters look foolish for swinging so early.
The Jays won the game, and I went home, emotionally exhausted.
People who aren’t in real estate, but who see me work daily – support staff, friends and family – they always say, “I don’t know how you do this job, aren’t you exhausted?”
Yes, but you get used to it. 24/7, and it never stops, but you get used to it, and the adrenaline is a fraction of what it used to be when you started your career.
But that night – October 14th, 2015, I felt collective emotions I might not have ever felt before in my career.
Anxiety, heart-break, anger, disgust, disdain, excitement, joy, fear, anticipation, surprise, pride, love, and happiness.
The Jays won. It was epic.
My client bought a house. It was perfect.
And for the rest of my life, when talking about “the bat flip,” I would have my own crazy story for all of those where-were-you-when conversations…